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Jay-Z: From Pavement to Penthouse: the irresistable rise of

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by Ade Daramy
You can’t knock his Hustle! – The business of being Jay-Z

Hip Hop fans know Jay-Z for many things and mostly, they know him for his way with words. What may come as a surprise is that the words that may come to define the man and his career don’t come from any of his many classics but from an interview he gave to American music publication Billboard. With his ever widening interests inside and outside of the music business, he was asked if he now considered himself a businessman, his reply was pure Jay-Z: “I’m not a businessman, I’m a ‘business’, man”! It’s the kind of witty, cheeky turn of phrase that one has come to expect from this master of words and seemingly, soon-to-be Master of The World.


Those of us with long memories of Hip Hop can remember the first time we heard Jay-Z. He was this skinny kid with a guy called ‘The Jaz O’ on the 1990 cut ‘The Originators’. No one could have predicted the incredible career that lay in store for the young man known to his parents as Shawn Corey Carter.

Since then, he has gone to live the ‘real’ hip hop fairytale. It is known that the one ever-present feature of hip hop throughout the years has been bragging or boasting. It could be argued that it is the one thing that has survived every clothing and music stylistic change that the genre has passed through. From every era, one can find examples of rappers telling how they were ‘street entrepreneurs’ who were going to move their ‘hustle’ on to take on or take over the world of legitimate business. As with all the endless boasting about how many people they had killed, a lot of it was just that: boasting. Of the many who have gone on to do more than just brag, surely no one has done it as well as Jay-Z.

What Jay-Z has does in the business world is nothing less than staggering and unprecedented. Where do I start? Well, digest these facts: Not many rappers have gone from being on a major independent label to being President and CEO; Jay-Z has done exactly that, with Def Jam, one of the iconic hip hop labels. And, in a stunning move late this year, he bought back his contract from the label. This man struck a deal with Iconix for his fashion line label, Rocawear, selling the rights for a mind-boggling $204m. Not satisfied with buying the Artful Dodge clothing business for $15m, he’s now talking about ‘looking to buy other companies as well’.

His Roc Nation empire not only has other artists signed to it such as Jay Cole and Rita Ora, they are now talking of putting out Rihanna and Kanye West fragrances; the  sweet smell of success, no doubt. If he wants to hang out in an upmarket sports bar, he can go to one he co-owns, The 40/40 Club, which, as I write this, already has branches in New York, Las Vegas, Dallas, Tokyo, Macau, Atlanta, Atlantic City and Chicago. I say ‘As I write’ because there are plans to open 40/40’s in Singapore. And, speaking of sports, one of his most high profile acquisitions is that he is a part-owner of the NBA team the New Jersey Nets.

Want me to go on? The guy is co-brand director for Budweiser Select, collaborating with them on marketing programs as well as on creative development. In the business world, where they no doubt call him ‘Mr Carter’, he is also known to have invested in a company J Hotels, which, in 2010, acquired a $66m parcel of real estate in the prestigious Chelsea area of New York.

Do you want me to stop now? Not before telling you about his interest in the ‘Carol’s Daughter’ line of beauty products which stretch to hair, skin, hand products and fragrances.

The guy is an absolute inspiration in terms of how to zoom up the corporate ladder and his career and methods should be taught in business schools the world over. In the words of one of his many hits ‘Big Pimpin’ indeed. All this and he gets to sleep with Beyonce! 

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